Durham City AFC 0-3 Durham United FC
After the lads disappointing loss to fellow bottom table side Annfield Plain last week, they were heading into this fixture with renewed vigour and determination to try and pick up their first points of the season. It was always going to be a tough ask when coming up against a Durham United side who are vying for promotion and sit sixth place in the league, but the Citizens have always gave a good account of themselves in each game thus far. Something they should be proud of, regardless of the results. Especially when comparing it to how things were just a few months.
The Citizens lined up in a 3-4-3 formation for the game, differing slightly from their usual 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1. With captain Ross Hutchinson moving from his usual position at centre-back out to right wing. Kallum Hannah also made his first appearance for the side again since debuting against Norton & Stockton Ancients two months back. Liam Peverley remained between the sticks and has been in fine form throughout the season and despite the results. Whereas Alex Gudgeon and Kaya Bodur have both impressed since joining the club and were rewarded a place in the starting eleven.
From the first whistle, City struggled to find their rhythm in the game. Seceding possession, sees passes go wayward or being lumped forward and at times, struggling to get out of their half.
The youth and pace of the Durham United side was too much at times for City and were exploiting the lack of familiarity of the 3-4-3, particularly down the left wing, in which our wings back kept moving to the centre instead of staying out wide.
Mark Hemmingway and Liam Peverley were keeping the lads in it with some brilliant reactionary saves and blocks, putting their bodies on the line to prevent a goal. City even had a chance themselves shortly after, when Kaya Bodur made a brilliant run down the right wing and found himself pretty much through on goal. The ball seemed to hit the United's defenders hand, stopping the transition, but the referee didn't agree and possession was once again lost.
It was in the 15th minute that Durham City succumbed to the continuous pressure that United created. After giving away a freekick just outside the edge of the box, United stepped up and the freekick was met by the opposition in the box and tucked into the net from a few yards out.
City were already struggling mentally and physically to get a foothold in the game as it was, but when United opened the scoring, heads dropped and internal arguments ensued across the pitch. The lads just simply weren't communicating with each other and were trying to rush every decision, rather than calm the game down and look to retain possession. They did come into the game a little bit more 10 minutes after the goal, but it was Durham United who remained the better of the two sides.
In the 27th minute, the Citizens had a good chance to reduce the deficit, when Kallum Hannah held the ball up well and played it onto Andrew Pritchard to take the shot. But his chance went high and wide. The lads were still struggling to find any rhythm or consistent passing in the game, with frustrations boiling and players looking deflated. Despite more heroics from Liam Peverley in the City goal, it was inevitable that United would score again and they were rewarded for their constant pressing in the 34th minute, when they scored from a corner. It was simply too easy for United and the lads were making it so.
The Citizens had a glorious opportunity to make it 2-1 just on the stroke of half-time, when Kallum Hannah held the ball up well just inside United's box and cut it back across the box. Kaya Bodur ran in, unmarked and with the goal at his mercy and somehow just missed getting solid contact with the ball and saw his shot go wide. The half time whistle blew and I think everyone drew a sigh of relief.
Manager Wayne Gredziak and his coaching staff must have given an inspired half time team talk and with making two substitutions of Brandon Gredziak and Curtis Layfield coming on for Luke Elves and Nathan Smith, the Citizens looked revitialsied. Straight from the second whistle, Durham City began to play with pace, energy, determination and fight. Something which has been synonymous with all their performances recently, despite the results not reflecting that. Brandon Gredziak in particular was looking geared up for the game and was making constant runs forward down the right wing.
It was evident to all at the ground to see that City were performing much much better compared to their first half performance. With the lads suddenly having more possession, attacking impetuous and counter attacking with aggression. United stood firm, but were having to endure what was a barrage of City attacks
Despite this though, City still couldn't quite get a shot off at goal or test the United keeper. Two more substitutes were made in the form of Kaya Bodur and Andrew Pritchard making way for Callum Hills and Calvin Payne. Similarly to the earlier substitutes, the new lads injected some much need energy into the game and were bombing forward to reduce the scoreline. Payne, Hills and Gredziak linked up well during one attacking phase and Payne found himself in a great position to shoot until he was brought down just inches from inside the penalty area. However, the ensuing freekick was blocked with relative ease and Durham City were still battling to get something.
In the 72nd minute, Calvin Payne thought he had done exactly that when he found himself through into the box and fired his shot towards the far corner, only to watch the keeper the most minimal touches with his leg to deflect it away from goal.
Just when City looked to get themselves back into the game, a lapse of concentration and judgement at the back caused Durham United to make it 3-0 in the 75th minute. City had a throw-in deep in their own half and rather than try to get the ball up field quickly, began to pass around themselves, allowing United to step in and steal possession and quickly counter. A devastating blow for the Citizens. The final change of the game was made, with Craig Megson coming on for Kallum Hannah in the 80th minute. But at this point, all the energy had dissipated from the game and the full time whistle went shortly after.
It feels like we are always using the cliche saying of a tale of two halves when it comes to Durham City, but that is exactly the case in a lot of their games. Whereas they usually start off strong and then tail off towards the end, it was the other way round in this game against United. But, they simply left it too late to get back into the game and did not do enough with the ball to cause concern for the opposition, with the keeper only being called into action once to make any decent save. It's a hard one for the lads to take and no doubt they will be disappointed and frustrated, but with games coming thick and fast this month, they need to pick their heads up, forget about the weekends game and focus on this upcoming Saturday in our home game against South Moor. Another club which finds itself near the bottom the table. Another club we need to try and take points from